Intimacy After Years of Marriage

by Dr. Lorin Bradbury

Question: My husband and I have been married for more than twenty years. We have three children, and from my perspective we have a good marriage. I have been faithful to him throughout our marriage and I have no reason to doubt his faithfulness to me. My only complaint is that he continually pressures me to make love to him. There have been times in our relationship that I enjoyed the sexual aspect of marriage, but overall, I have never had an extremely strong need for a sexual relationship. I really thought that by now his sex drive would wane. If I were to convince him to go to you for counseling, what could you do to help him?

Answer: From reading your question, and given the minimal information available in your question, I’m not sure that he’s the one who needs the counseling. It’s very possible that there is more to the story than you have provided above, but you indicate there has been no infidelity, and overall, you are happily married. It appears from what you have said that your husband has not been abusive to you and even in his desire for sex, he has not been overly pushy or manipulative. I am making some assumptions, but I’m working with the information you have provided. Based on that, my initial reaction is that you may have distorted view of the sexual relationship.

Since you have been married more than twenty years, it is likely that you are somewhere between 40 and 50 years old. To believe that he is going to lose interest in sex at that age is to lack understanding of human sexuality. Let’s get real; he’s still going to be interested at 80.

There are a number of questions that I would like to ask you. How long have you been rejecting him? Have you considered what it is like to be rejected by the one you have committed your life to and are willing to die for? You stated that you have never been unfaithful to your husband, but have you considered that refusing to make love to your husband, or doing it grudgingly, is the “moral equivalent of infidelity.” Dr. Laura Schlessinger boldly stated, “Intentionally depriving a spouse of his legitimate needs stems from being unfaithful to the intent of the vows.”

It’s very possible that your intimacy needs are being met through other legitimate means, but his needs aren’t being met at all. There is a book written from a Christian point of view on this subject. It is written by Marla Taviano, and she entitled it, Is That All He Thinks About?: How to Enjoy Great Sex with Your Husband. In the book, she presents a conversation she had with a friend that sounds much like you. I will present that interchange between the two ladies for your consideration.

My friend Arin recently shared that she was completely uninterested in sex.

“So, what do you love?” I asked her. “And be honest. You don’t have to tell me you love reading your Bible and being a mom.”

“Scrapbooking, shopping, and eating at nice restaurants,” she said without hesitation.

“What if you could only do those things if Jeff were willing to do them with you?” I asked her.

“That’s stupid,” she told me without batting an eye.

“Go with me here, girl. I have a point.”

“Okay,” she said, playing along. “I’d never get to scrapbook, I’d hardly ever shop, and we’d eat out once or twice a month. But we’d never go to my favorite two restaurants, because he insists he doesn’t like them.”

“So, let me ask you this—since your husband doesn’t enjoy scrapbooking, shopping, or eating out at nice restaurants on a frequent basis, do you go without these things?”

“Of course not. That’s what my girlfriends are for.”

“Hmm…okay. Let me get this straight. You like scrapbooking, but not sex. He likes sex, but not scrapbooking. Correct?”

“Uh, yes.”

“When you refuse to have sex with him, who does he call to satisfy that craving?”

“He better not be calling anybody!”

“Why not? You do.”

“Not for sex!”

“Right, but sex is not your deepest need. So, while you’re getting your deepest needs and desires met, your husband is going without. It’s perfectly acceptable for other people to meet these needs for you, but you are the only person on the face of this earth he is allowed to go to for sex.”

“You can’t tell me that sex is a need. I don’t need it…I think the real solution here is for my husband to find a hobby he can do without me. Maybe that would take his mind off sex.”

“Is that how you visualize your ideal marriage—you going off doing your thing, him going off and doing his? Two separate people going in two separate directions.” Why even bother getting married? We can’t use our differences as an excuse to avoid doing something our husbands want to do. And besides, sex is not just a hobby for your husband. Taking his mind off it isn’t the answer”

Further, the author stated for all the wives reading her book:

Your husband agreed to marry you with his sex drive intact, fully aware he would be entirely dependent on you to meet all his sexual needs. If, for some reason, you were unable our unwilling to meet those needs, he understood they would go unmet. Saying “I do” to you included placing his sexual needs and identity out on the table—naked and vulnerable—for you to do as you please.

According to God, I am the only one allowed to meet my husband’s sexual desires. An awesome responsibility, yes, but what a privilege.

I’m not sure I was able to provide you with the answer you were expecting, but I believe there is something in the conversation between Maria and Arin above worth considering. The answer to HIS PROBLEM is not me trying to convince HIM that HE SHOULD BURY HIS SEX DRIVE by finding a hobby or throwing all his energy into his work. Instead YOU ARE THE ANSWER TO HIS PROBLEM. He wants you and needs you. Consider a new hobby—getting to know your husband and attempting to meet his needs.

Lorin L. Bradbury, Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist in private practice in Bethel. For appointments, he can be reached at 543-3266. If you have questions that you would like Dr. Bradbury to answer in the Delta Discovery, please send them to The Delta Discovery, P.O. Box 1028, Bethel, AK 99559, or e-mail them to [email protected]

Example: 9075434113